23rd June 2022
Today marks International Women in Engineering Day. Founded by the Women’s Engineering Society in 2015, the annual campaign celebrates the women revolutionising the engineering industry, as well as recognising the new era of female engineers passionate about making their mark on the sector and continuing to pave the way for future generations of women.
As part of our sponsorship of #INWED22, we spoke with Lucy Godfrey, a first-year instrumentation and control maintenance apprentice in the OPITO-led Oil and Gas Technical Apprenticeship Programme (OGTAP), to find out more about life as a female apprentice, her goals for the future and the steps she’d like to see taken to make STEM-related industries more accessible to women.
What inspired you to pursue a career in engineering?
I didn’t take a conventional route into the industry. After leaving school, I spent time in a number of jobs, mainly within the pharmaceutical industry, but found I wasn’t feeling fulfilled or inspired. For someone who enjoys constant challenges and a fast-paced, hands-on environment, it felt like something was missing.
After encouragement from people who had gone through the scheme, I decided to look into OGTAP. After some initial research, I decided it was the best route as it would provide a high standard of training that would help me secure a job and succeed in the industry. Since I applied, I’ve never looked back.
Can you tell us a bit about the highlights of your apprenticeship so far?
Watching my knowledge and confidence grow has been a major highlight of my first year in the programme. Going from never having picked up any tools to feeling competent in fault finding and calibrating instruments by myself is something I’m very proud of.
I’ve also enjoyed the networking side of the job and have discovered a passion for encouraging others like myself into similar roles by breaking down stereotypes within the industry.
What are you looking forward to in the next few years of your apprenticeship and beyond?
All the opportunities! Next year, I’m looking forward to focusing on specialised learning of instrumentation and control systems after developing my basic engineering skills in first year. I’m also excited to meet and connect with new people once I start working offshore, as well as getting used to the challenges and the routine.
Looking further ahead, my aim is to be known as a great instrument technician, regardless of my gender. I’ve always enjoyed chemistry, so one day I’d also love to complete a chemical engineering degree and specialise in that area within my career, especially for decommissioning projects as the industry works towards net zero.
How have you found working as a female in a traditionally male dominated industry? Has there been any hurdles or surprises?
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry always comes with challenges. But while I quickly learned that I needed to be able to speak up for myself, I’ve received nothing but support and respect from the more experienced members of the team.
It's also great to have other women in my class to talk to, as is having industry role models you can relate to. When you see others like you achieving great things, it inspires you to do the same.
I’m determined to change the reputation of women in engineering, and this starts with having the confidence to throw myself in headfirst and work my hardest to achieve my goals. I am extremely motivated and I am very grateful to be part of an industry that is as excited as I am to make changes and keep on improving.
What steps would you like to see taken to make entering STEM-related industries more accessible for women?
It’s great to see campaigns which position women at the forefront of traditionally male-dominated industries because as I said before, it proves to younger generations that anything is possible. However, I’m really looking forward to the day where it becomes the norm to see both men and women profiled across the industry. I think that’s when we’ll know we’ve achieved something great.
Another step that would make a huge difference would be integrating information on the different challenges men and women face into apprenticeships and general industry training. We already have training which discusses the importance of respect, consideration, and cooperation between colleagues but education on gender-specific issues, for example, the impact starting a family can have on a woman and her career, parental considerations for fathers, and more spotlight on general mental health could be an effective way of encouraging more skilled women into the industry.
To complement this, it would be great to see women’s needs catered for in the workplace, for example the provision of sanitary products in female bathrooms. By taking these steps to be more inclusive, the industry opens itself up to an endless amount of potential workforce talent and supports its current workforce in the process.
What advice would you give to any young women looking to pursue a career in engineering or thinking of applying to OGTAP?
I was really nervous when I first applied, as it can be daunting to move into a completely new industry, but now I’m here I’m so glad I took the leap. It’s important to remember that any doubts and worries you have can be resolved once you’ve started, you don’t have to have everything figured out beforehand.
When making my decision, I looked at my core values and what I wanted from the next few years of my career. There are pros and cons to all routes of education and work, but things like earning money, learning on the job and gaining practical experience in your chosen industry are key benefits of an apprenticeship, as well as the opportunity of a job at the end of your study.
One thing I had to remember when making my choice is that education has no timeframe. You can always go back and do a degree later in life, or your company may sponsor you to do a part-time degree once you’re employed.
Once you get there, the best advice I can give is to have the confidence to speak up and don’t be afraid to stand out. I look at it from the perspective of “Where will my skills be the most nurtured and encouraged? Which route serves my values as a person and a professional?” Once you start looking at things from that point of view, it’ll become much easier to get where you want to be.